The East End Cooperative Ministry (EECM) is an East Liberty institution. Since 1970, the organization has been providing a wide range of services to the East End. Whether offering food assistance to those who are experiencing food insecurity, working alongside those who are experiencing housing insecurity and barriers to employment, or reaching out to young people to help them work towards a brighter future, they are always finding new ways to serve the ever-evolving needs of the community.
It’s now been three years since Carole Bailey took the reins as EECM’s CEO. In that time, she’s had to navigate a global pandemic and a period when people needed EECM’s support more than ever before. We checked in with Carole to hear about how the organization is doing and what they are focusing on now.
How have you settled into your role?
It seems I was just settling into the position after stabilizing the organization financially when COVID-19 hit. As with any CEO, I needed to figure out a way to do things differently. My staff was instrumental in helping determine how to keep our staff, clients, and volunteers safe while being on the front line of servicing those in need. I have found the job to be challenging, but as we have gone through the various stages since taking the reins, I have found it ultimately so rewarding to try to help the underserved of our community.
How did EECM have to adapt to meet the needs of the community during the pandemic?
We truly left on Friday after talking about the pandemic and what effect it could potentially have on the organization to texting with my senior staff all weekend as things changed very quickly. On Monday morning, we came in and determined our pantry and hot lunch service needed to be moved to curbside service. In our shelter, we needed to try to limit exposure by moving beds so heads were not facing heads, people would eat in shifts, smoke breaks would be on our porches and not outside the facility, and hands would be washed on entry and before and after every meal. Our primary focus was to keep our staff and residents safe and healthy. As restaurants stopped serving, we received food donations from the restaurant suppliers so the food would not go to waste. The philanthropic and our donor community were very supportive and helped us get through as we experienced a threefold increase in the number of food-insecure we were serving for more than a year as the pandemic continued. Even now, we are seeing elevated numbers as increased unemployment benefits have stopped and inflation, especially in the grocery store aisles, rises.
When we last spoke, you mentioned wanting to help address the City’s homelessness issue as well as your desire to rent some of EECM’s space to a few nonprofits to help create a “community of social enterprise” within EECM. Have any of those dreams been realized?
In November 2019, we rented some of the underutilized spaces in the building to three non-profit organizations: 412 Food Rescue, Repair the World, and Catapult Greater Pittsburgh. During the pandemic, we worked together to help the community. As we try to get back to normal, we are certainly hoping we have more opportunities to work together. We have continued to help the City’s homelessness issue and have submitted a proposal to manage the new year-round shelter that is currently under construction.
What is EECM’s focus now?
Our current focus is to maintain financial stability while continuing to change the lives of as many people facing the impacts of poverty as we can.
How can people get involved with EECM?
We could not make ends meet without a robust volunteer corp. We utilize volunteers in our food pantry, soup kitchen, and sewing studio daily. We could always use more dependable volunteers.
If you would like to volunteer you can reach us by going to eecm.org/volunteer. You can also reach out to Reverend Tracy Hudson, our talented volunteer coordinator, at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or call at 412-345-7124.
What’s one thing about EECM that you wish more people knew?
We provide workforce development and employ people who have come out of our program in office cleaning, landscaping, and commercial sewing. Please contact email@example.com (for office cleaning and landscaping service) or firstname.lastname@example.org (for sewing services) if you are interested in utilizing our services. For more details, go to the social enterprises tab on our website.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
During the pandemic, we mobilized our sewing studio and made masks for our staff and residents. We were also contracted to make masks for Highmark and created almost 9,000 masks that Highmark distributed to the community.